David 'Baddy' Trealor has an encounter with what could be the Byron Bay shark.
There’s a certain energy and look in the eye of someone who has just had a close call with a White Pointer that’s unmistakable. It’s something I have come to recognize during my time living in surf towns where most surfers fish when the surf is flat.
I remember the first time Baddy motored back in to the beach at Spooks about 10 years ago, after being “Eyeballed” by a Great White “Bigger than my tinny” and the way his whole body was buzzing and his eyes were bulging like ping pong balls.
And so it was today, when he returned from his morning out with regular fishing buddy Billy. I felt the electricity of their experience as they pulled up and unhooked his runabout out the back of where I live downstairs from him. “We were fishing with live slimeys, concentrating on what was happening out the back, when I looked down and spotted a ten foot white pointer cruising alongside the boat; from front to back, about a meter away.”
“It disappeared, and then after about another hour of good fishing, Billy hooked what we thought was a big Jewie; but as it continued to take so much line under pressure, we then thought it must be a big Cobia. Then after another 20 minutes of fighting, during which it turned us from facing due south to northeast, it lunged in the air about 50 meters away, just like you see in a David Attenborough documentary, and we realized what it really was.”
“Then it vee-lined toward the boat, a full wake splitting off its back and dorsal. Bill called out for me to cut the line, but I was in full awe and just froze … mesmerised. By the time it was about 5 meters from the boat we saw its full girth and pectoral wingspan and I couldn’t help but think ‘this is the one that killed the guy up in Byron last week."
I asked Baddy if there was any real likelihood of this being the case, and, as The old man and the sea that he is, I believe him when he says, “I recon there’s at least a 50/50 chance that was the same shark.” How anyone could recognise a shark might be a mystery to a non-fishermen, but the same goes for non-surfers being in disbelief at how a surfer can recognize a wave from a photo or film, when there is no geographical evidence to support their notion, and only the shape and colour of the wave to go on.
“I saw that shark on TV the other night on the news, filmed from the helicopter, and given that the whales are migrating south, and the timing and look of it were so right, I’d say that was just as likely it.”
So was there any thought of ‘pay-back’? Billy says, “When you get that close to and animal as magnificent as that, it’s a life changing experience. They’re just so majestic, and obviously all powerful, there is nothing but awe, and for me, no desire to hurt it in any way.”
Anyone who I know who has confronted a White Pointer while surfing, or even fishing from a tinny, has told me the same thing: “If that shark wanted to kill or eat me it could have.” The powerlessness of a human in the vicinity of the oceans top predator, when we are so clearly out of our element, is all to obvious when you come face to face with a Great White.
After the shark reached close enough to the boat for Billy to realise that Baddy was now just watching, captivated by the dimensions of the prehistoric animal, Billy wrenched on the rod, snapping the line and the beast dived under the boat, never to be seen again. Not by them anyway.
“You know that one I saw ten years ago was the first one I had seen here in 20 years of fishing here, I recon I’ve seen half a dozen since then.”
A special thanks to Paul Witzig for the classic images of Baddy. See more at http://johnwitzig.com.au/